Daniel Suddeath

Daniel Suddeath

Local resident Belinda Matthews England tagged me in a Facebook post Wednesday linking to a USA Today story conducted by 24/7 Wall Street reporters studying the "poorest" towns in each state.

Sadly, according to the analysis, Glasgow has this dubious distinction in Kentucky.

According to the story, the reporters reviewed median annual household income in every American town to identify the poorest cities.

The median household income for Glasgow, according to the study, is $28,362, making it the only city in Kentucky that comes in under $30,000 annually. The state median is $44,811.

It gets worse.

The study shows that Glasgow's poverty rate is above 26 percent, higher than any other town in Kentucky, according to the story. The state's poverty rate is 18.8 percent.

And while we love our Scotties and Trojans in Barren County, the high school diploma rate for adults is 78.2 percent, according to the story, compared to 84.6 percent for the state average.

A quick search of the U.S. Census Bureau's website shows this story's numbers are accurate based on 2012-2016 estimates.

Put the numbers aside for a moment and think about our community. Does it really surprise you that we're struggling to keep up with other cities in Kentucky?

While we've had some positive news on the job front over the past year, it's all about wages. This is often lost in unemployment reports, but it's the most important statistic. If you have a job that doesn't pay a livable wage, is it really worth working? The answer to that question may explain why so many are on public assistance. While certainly we should all desire to work and earn our way through life, can you really blame someone for staying on welfare when it pays about the same as working a full-time job?

Some said when alcohol was approved we'd be flooded with bars and restaurants serving booze. That hasn't happened. You know why? Because we can barely support our existing businesses, much less new establishments. There are some businesses that are thriving in Glasgow and likely, and hopefully, will continue to do so. There are also many good businesses that have closed because of lack of financial support.

When one in four Glasgow residents lives below the poverty rate, and our median income is well under the state average, the money simply isn't there to support our economy.

We see this at the Daily Times. We can look at our online viewership numbers and tell that people are reading our content. Though no daily newspaper's subscription levels are what they once were, we have a pretty decent penetration percentage based on the number of people living in our coverage area, probably higher than at any newspaper where I've worked. But advertising revenue isn't what it once was, and it's hard to fault businesses for watching their expenses when they're struggling to keep their doors open.

It's also hard to tell people that paying $11 a month for a subscription is nothing when the numbers show that our residents are not doing well financially. While cost of living may be cheaper here than in bigger cities like Lexington or Louisville, additional expenses hit us harder because as a whole, we earn well less than most of our fellow Kentuckians.

When the Glasgow Electric Plant Board implemented a new rate structure, one of the reasons why so many people were hit so hard and opposed the change is that even $20 or $30 more a month on a utility bill cuts deep into the pockets of many of our residents.

There certainly isn't a silver bullet to remedy this, and don't expect anything to change overnight. But as England mentioned in her Facebook post, we need to be more mindful of our poor and our homeless. There's a real struggle in Glasgow and with such a large chunk of the population teetering on the edge of financial ruin, we could easily find ourselves or our friends and family in a destitute position.

We also need to continue to focus on job creation, and attracting companies that pay solid wages and will employ local residents. Bringing a company to town that's bringing employees with it doesn't do us that much good. Employees also have to value themselves and their ability to earn a wage. People just don't have the same work ethic anymore, but communities can only subsidize so much.

Where we can, as consumers, we must support our local economy. We may not have all the businesses that Bowling Green touts, but this is where we live. A dollar you spend in Barren County will stretch further than if you spent it outside of our community. Businesses also have a responsibility to provide quality service and products if they wish to succeed.

And perhaps most importantly, we have to value education. For some reason, some frown upon educational advancement. But the numbers don't lie. The higher the level of educational attainment, the higher the level of pay on average. We need to emphasize the importance of not just graduating high school, but earning a college degree. And of course college isn't for everyone, but everyone can learn skills that can prepare them for quality jobs.

We must act if we want to reverse the trend. If in a decade our income and poverty levels mirror current figures, Glasgow will look much different, and not in a good way.

Suddeath is the editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. His column appears in the Thursday edition and at various times throughout the week. Reach him at 270-678-5171, or by email at dsuddeath@glasgowdailytimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @DsuddeathGDT.